Women prisoner worries highlighted

Mental health charity Maca has expressed “serious concerns” about
rising levels of women prisoners suffering from mental disorders
and record numbers committing suicide in jail.

Last month’s Prison Reform Trust report for 2002-3 revealed that 10
female prisoners have committed suicide in the first six months of
this year, including four under-21-year-olds. Last year, there were
nine female suicides, which had been the highest rate ever

Out of all women sent to prison, 40 per cent say they have
attempted suicide at some point in their life. Half the women in
prison are on prescribed medication such as anti-depressants or
anti-psychotic drugs.

The report says the Prison Service cannot provide adequate care for
these women, and mental health provision in jails is of a much
lower standard than elsewhere in the NHS.

Simon Lawton-Smith, head of public affairs at Maca’s, said:
“Without adequate care, their mental health will deteriorate
further, and will be a significant barrier to their reintegration
into the community on release.”

The charity welcomes the Trust’s recommendations, which call for
the government to focus on early intervention and invest in
appropriate mental health care and drug treatment to respond to the
needs of vulnerable females. It also urges court diversion schemes
to be available across the country so that offenders who are at
risk of suicide can access the treatment they need.

– Troubled Inside: Responding to the Mental Health Needs of
Women in Prison
, from 020 7251 5070.

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